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Business School student missing after Thailand tsunami


James W. Hsu, a second-year MBA student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, has been reported missing in Thailand following the Dec. 26 tsunami that struck a large swath of Southeast Asia.

Hsu was vacationing in the resort area of Koh Phi Phi with four other Business School students following a school study trip to Singapore and Thailand that had concluded a few days earlier. Another student, Laura Wales, was injured, but she and all other students have been accounted for.

According to reports the university received from fellow students who were there, Hsu was on a beach when the waves hit. The other students, including Wales, do not know what happened to him.

"In this disaster of such immense proportion, we are overwhelmingly concerned for James and his family," said Robert Joss, dean of the Graduate School of Business, who is currently in Australia. "We are doing everything possible to support the search for him and we are proud of our students who are still assisting on the ground in Thailand. I also am relieved that Laura Wales has been taken to a hospital in Bangkok."

Stanford University staff members have been in close contact with the Hsu and Wales’ families, Dean of Students Greg Boardman said. Business School staff members also have contacted the State Department and U.N. agencies assisting with rescue efforts, as well as other Stanford students in Thailand. “The entire Stanford community hopes and prays for the safe return of James,” Boardman said.

Hsu, 25, is a U.S. citizen and a graduate of the University of California-Berkeley. He lives in Atherton and is a member of a number of Business School student organizations, including the Entrepreneurship Club, the Venture Capital Club and the Stanford Business School Student Association

Two Business School students from the group remain in Thailand. They are working closely with the families and communicating with the Business School. One student coordinated transportation for Wales to a private hospital in Bangkok, and the other is searching hospitals for Hsu in Krabi, where survivors and victims from Kho Phi Phi have been taken.

"We would like to thank everyone for their support in the search for James," said Peggy Hsu, Hsu's sister. "We know that if anyone can survive in the face of such extreme odds it is him. We are heading to Thailand to search for him. We will keep you informed of our efforts. Once again, thank you for your help and support, and we will be in touch."

According to a biography that Hsu was asked to prepare for the study trip, he was born in Merced and raised in Central California. He graduated from the U.C.-Berkeley in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Hsu began his career at a music technology start-up called He helped raise $6.5 million from Sony and Utah Ventures, and the company was eventually sold to Sony in 2001. Hsu then led the touch-screen voting machine business for D.I.M.S., a leader in elections management systems that was acquired by Diebold. Last summer he worked at both Yahoo and Sun Microsystems. Hsu is currently working on a number of different projects. He started an import business, which is currently selling products from China. He also co-founded a product-design firm, Tray6, with his sister early this year. Hsu expressed an interest in looking at Southeast Asia for new business opportunities in technology and manufacturing, hence his involvement in learning more about the region through the study trip.

MBA study trips

The Business School study trip program has been in place for 17 years. In the months before the trip, students research the country and cities to be visited, learning about the relevant economic and cultural history, arranging and listening to speakers pertinent to the trip, and building a compelling itinerary that will offer the greatest educational reward. The program culminates with a trip over winter break or spring break during which groups of about 25 students travel to the countries they have studied. Each group is accompanied by one or two faculty members who act as advisers during the trip and representatives of Stanford University. In 2004-05, the Business School fielded six trips to Brazil, China, Japan, Italy, Russia, and one to Singapore and Thailand.

The Singapore and Thailand study trip began Dec. 13 and meetings concluded the evening of Dec. 22 in Phuket, Thailand. The following day, most students left Phuket to head home for the holidays or vacations. There were about two dozen students on the trip, plus a faculty adviser and his spouse, who are accounted for. In addition to Hsu and the four students who were on Koh Phi Phi island, several other students were doing personal travel in other parts of the region, but all are safe and unharmed.

James Hsu
James Hsu

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